Electoral shake-up in Israel projected to lead to… more gridlock

I haven’t been following Israeli political developments much recently: while there is always a lot of noise about them in our media, the signal-to-noise ratio seemed smaller then ever.

For the past few days, we were at a (semi)private medical center for elective surgery on Mrs. Arbel. In the break room a TV was blaring that I couldn’t ignore: most of the content was obituaries to one of the founding fathers of Israeli rock and pop: singer, pianist, and songwriter Zvika Pick z”l, who had suddenly and unexpectedly died of cardiac arrest. (He had had a stroke several years ago that forced him to relearn Hebrew from scratch — not many people here understand his first language, Polish — but had recovered well enough that he again could perform live.)

Then the subject changed. I had somehow missed that two of the “anti-Netanyahu coalition” parties — the centrist “Blue and White” (kachol ve-lavan)led by former IDF Chief of Staff and current Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and the Likud breakaway slate “New Hope” (tikva chadasha) led by Justice Minister Gideon Saar) had merged. Now in addition, another former IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot [*], has joined them and the new list will be called HaReshima HaMamlachtit, which would be most accurately translated as “the statesmanlike list” but which briefly went by the English-language moniker “the State Party”, before they settled on the National Unity Party.



PR image quoted from JPOST article

According to the latest polls (caveat emptor/buyer beware) commissioned by the various Israeli TV channels, the pro-Netanyahu bloc (including the “ultra-Orthodox” parties Shas and United Torah Judaism) will be the stronger, yet fall short of the 61 Knesset seats required for an absolute majority: they would need to either attract the moderate-Islamist Ra`am of Mansour Abbas (sitting with his secular Arab nationalist and “Jewish” “former” Communist competitor the Joint List would be electoral suicide for either bloc) or get a party to defect from the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

Conversely, the latter is only predicted to poll about 51 MKs without Ra`am, and 56 including it. Naftali Bennett quit politics; his party, now led by his secular-nationalist female counterpart Ayelet Shaked, is predicted not to cross the electoral threshold (de facto 4 MKs). The latter accounts for most of the difference.

If Netanyahu were to retire tomorrow, there would be a Likud-led government pretty much the day after tomorrow. But none of the former Netanyahu associates now leading the anti-Netanyahu factions still trust a single word that comes out of his mouth.

So I expect more gridlock after a pointless election. One trial balloon being floated was a rotating prime ministership, with either Yair Lapid (currently caretaker PM) or Gideon Saar going first and Netanyahu as alternate PM, then changing places after 2 years. Such rotations have a history in Israel: after Menachem Begin’s “I cannot go on” nervous breakdown[**], Shimon Peres (for Labour) and Yitzchak Shamir (for the Likud) alternated as PMs for a national unity coalition.

More recently, Netanyahu and Benny Gantz were supposed to go first and second, respectively — then Netanyahu triggered early elections by forestalling the passing of a budget before the deadline, so he would not have to keep his promise.

Interesting times ahead…

ADDENDUM: unrelated to the above, Putin wants closer relations with North Korea. I mean, how cartoonish can he get?

[*] Being an amateur linguist, I couldn’t make sense of a name that in German literally would mean “iron dung”. As it turns out, his parents actually immigrated from Morocco and the real family name is Azencot, which means “deer” in the Amazigh (“Berber”) language — but they affected the pseudo-German spelling so the name would look more Ashkenazi… (An alternative would have been to Hebraize it to Tzvi, ben-Tzvi, or Naftali.)

In case you wonder what it is with deer, lions, wolves, and bears in Jewish names: these derive from the dying blessing of Jacob to his twelve sons (the patriarchs of the twelve tribes) in Genesis 49. The lion (Aryeh) is Yehuda/Judah, the wolf (Ze’ev) is Binyamin/Benjamin, the deer (Tzvi) is Naftali. Issachar was originally a “donkey, bearing strong burdens” — but because of the other associations of the said animal 🙂 a bear (Dov) was substituted over time.

[**] Only part of the reason for Begin’s (z”l) breakdown was the First Lebanon War turning into a quagmire after — so his son Benny Begin would claim — Ariel Sharon z”l turning what was meant to be a limited anti-PLO operation into a grandiose regime change plan that blew up big time.
The other main reason was the death of Begin’s wife Aliza, to whom he was deeply devoted.

2 thoughts on “Electoral shake-up in Israel projected to lead to… more gridlock

  1. I do wonder how many Likud members support Netanyahu and whether there’s a way to depose him as the Uk Tories did with BoJo? You’d think that a significant number of Likudniks would recognize the truth in this para of your post

    “If Netanyahu were to retire tomorrow, there would be a Likud-led government pretty much the day after tomorrow. But none of the former Netanyahu associates now leading the anti-Netanyahu factions still trust a single word that comes out of his mouth. ”

    and woudl be keen to ditch the Netanyahu so they could be part of a dominant ruling coalition instead of the recent 61 seats if you’re lucky coalitions

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